Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River



Wells Street Bridge

        Written 12/22/2017

      The current Wells Street Bridge ( 200 West; 309 North) is the eighth bridge at this site. It crosses the main branch of the Chicago River 1.4 miles west of river mouth.  It is one of the four double deck bridges over the Chicago River.  

     It Is a metal rivet-connected  Warren through Truss movable; double leaf bascule (fixed trunnion) and approach spans :  metal stringer (multibeam ); fixed.  The upper decks carries two tracks of the CTA elevated line. On the lower deck, there are cantilevered side walks.  There are two granite faced octagonal bridge tender houses.

     There is one main span and four approach spans.  Main span measures 268 feet.  Structure length measures 345.2 feet.  Roadway width measures 38 feet.

     To minimize railroad traffic disruption, the bridge was constructed in the open position.  I have found at least two dates for the bridge opening:  December 4, 1921 or February 11, 1922.

     In 1935, there was a collision between a ship and the bridge.  The east side sidewalk was torn away.  There was also damage to the superstructure.  In 1936, there were two bridge malfunctions in a ten day period.  In 1936, new creosoted  block deck pavement was installed. Four main columns of the bridge approaches were reinforced with horizontal trusses.  In 1956, the old bridge deck was removed and replaced with open grid steel roadway.  The bridge was closed to traffic beginning in November, 2012 for a complete bridge rehabbed.

     The following were bridge contractors:

Designer:  Bureau of Engineering Chicago Department of Public Works.

Substructure Contractor:  Fits Simons  and Connell Company

Superstructure Contractor:  Ketler Elliot Company.

Steel Fabricator:  Fort Pitt Bridge Company

Construction Cost  $1,341, 925.


Wells Street Bridge

     The first bridge at Wells Street opened in 1841.  It was a wood hand operated pontoon – float swing bridge. There were wood approaches at each end. It was designed and built by John Van Osdel.  Cost was $3500.  It was removed in 1847.

     The second bridge at Wells Street opened in July, 1847.  Like its predecessor it was a pontoon swing design.  Its   floats were made from boiler iron.  Neither the bridge designer not the builder are known.   Construction cost was $3000.  It was destroyed by a flood on March 12, 1849.

     The third Wells Street Bridge opened in September, 1849.  It was a new pontoon-float swing design operated with a turn table.  It was hand operated.  It incorporated salvaged floats from the second bridge.  Neither the designer nor the builder are known.  Cost was $3200.  The bridge was removed in 1856.

     The fourth Wells Street Bridge opened in 1856.  It was a swing wood hand operated type bridge.  It was 190 feet in length and had 3 arch trusses.It was designed and constructed by Derastus Harper City superintendent of public works.  Construction cost was $20,000.

     In 1861, the bridge was strengthened with cables to relieve strain.  The bridge was eventually removed in August, 1862.

     The fifth bridge at this site opened in 1862.  It was a wood swing pivot hand operated bridge.  This bridge used the foundation and turntable of its predecessor.  It was designed and constructed by Fox and Howard.  Cost was $8000.00. It was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of October 8–10th, 1871.


Wells Street Bridge

     The sixth Wells Street Bridge opened in  August, 1872  It was an all iron swing hand operated bridge  It was 190 feet in length.  It required an all new substructure .  It was designed and constructed by Fox and Howard.  Its cost was $49,002.  After 16 years of service, the bridge was relocated on March 26, 1888 to Dearborn Street.


Wells Street Bridge

     The 7th Wells Street Bridge opened on August 24, 1888.  It was an all steel swing bridge.  Originally it was powered by steam.  This was later converted to electric power.  It was 220 feet long.  Part of the financing was provided by North Chicago Street Railroad Company  ($59,000 + $4,690 operating costs).  City of Chicago paid for the substructure.  Total construction costs were $112,692.

     Bridge designer and superstructure contractor was Keystone Bridge Company.  Substructure contractor was FitzSimons and Connell.

     In 1890, Department of Public Works made repairs to the center pier and North approach.  In July 5, 1896, the bridge was closed so that the contractor Shailer and Schniglau could add a top deck to carry the trains of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad Company.  A new set rollers was added to the bridge turntable.  Seven Center panels were removed from all three bridge trusses and were replaced with heavier steel.  Bridge reopened in September 20 of the same year.The

     The bridge closed on December 3, 1921 and then was removed.


Bridge keeper house Wells Street Bridge



Bridge Plaque

Bridge Inspection (8th bridge). 12/2012

Deck                            Condition.             Rating        Fair.          5 out of 9

Superstructure.       Condition.             Rating.       Serious    3 out 9

Substructure.            Condition.             Rating.      Fair.         5 out of 9

Appraisal  Functionally  Deficient


Wells Street Bridge


Wells Street Bridge


Wells Street Bridge


Wells Street Bridge


Wells Street Bridge


Under Surface Wells Street Bridge

Wells Street Bridge over Chicago River

Wells Street Bridge over Chicago River

Photos added 4/14/2018

Wells Street Bridge Plaque

Wells Street Bridge

Wells Street Bridge

Wells Street Bridge

Elevated Extension from Wells Street Bridge

Photos added 4/8/2018

Wells Street Bridge Chicago Historical Society Picture

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